It takes a long time to master any skill, but it doesn’t take very long to be “good enough” at one. The expected timeframe for how quickly children can learn to swim is typically 6-12 months assuming they are only taking one lesson a week, whereas for adults it can be as fast as 2-3 weeks if they are taking lessons everyday. This assumes no prior swimming experience beforehand.
For some, these seem like reasonable timeframes. However, what if it could be done even faster? After all, some sports like running are very intuitive, and people can literally hit the ground running and become proficient quickly. With a sport like swimming, could it be possible to learn how to swim in a week or less?
Depending on your definition of what it means to know how to swim, yes, it is possible to know how to swim in a week. In that time, a child or an adult can learn how to become confident in the water, travel short distances, submerge their face underwater, and float on their backs to conserve energy. By most peoples’ definitions, this is enough knowledge and skill to know how to swim.
That said, there are many factors that affect how quickly you or your child can learn how to swim. By understanding these factors, and if the stars align, it may be possible to learn how to swim in a week. We discuss these factors in more detail below.
Factors that affect learning how to swim in a week
Frequency of lessons
Most people who are recreationally taking swim lessons take one lesson per week. After a dozen or so lessons, they typically will know how to swim at a beginner level.
However, if the goal is to learn how to swim in a week, then you don’t have the luxury of taking your time. You will need to take lessons every single day otherwise you simply won’t get enough practice.
Some swimming pools offer an intense “swimming week” course where the goal is to teach beginners the basic water safety skills in a week’s time. Unsurprisingly, classes are offered every weekday at this rapid pace.
For young children, it is harder to learn how to swim in a week because they may not be able to keep up with this rigorous schedule. Children may get bored or frustrated quickly taking so many lessons so quickly, so learning how to swim in a week is a challenge that is better suited for adults.
Fear of the water
Generally speaking, children who were introduced to being in the water at a very early age (whether it is through formal or informal lessons) tend not to have any fear of it even as they get older.
Conversely, people who have never been in large bodies of water tend to develop a fear of water that only gets worse as they get older. You can end up as an adult that is deathly afraid of the water, whereas a child may be blissfully unaware of how scary it can be and have no fear.
With a deadline of only one week, you cannot afford to waste time being scared of the water. If you even have to spend a few lessons just overcoming your fear of the water, you may not be able to learn how to swim in a week.
People who have no fear of the water will be able to hit the ground running and immediately get started learning the basics like how to float on their back, do the front crawl, and other swimming strokes that submerge their face underwater.
If you are already physically active and have great stamina, you will have a huge advantage over someone who lives a sedentary lifestyle.
Swimming is a highly active sport that burns a lot of calories. Part of the reason why is because it requires you to be constantly moving in order to stay afloat.
Someone with poor stamina will run out of energy quickly and panic. Furthermore, if one does not understand that swimming requires graceful movements, and instead madly thrashes around to stay afloat, then they are wasting a ton of energy and will not be able to swim for long.
If someone with good fitness learns how to swim, they are more likely to pick up on breathing techniques and how to perform the various movements with great form. This is because they likely are proficient at other sports and there may be a transfer of skill between them.
Being fit is a huge benefit, but it’s not mandatory. However, at the end of one week, you are not likely to improve your stamina by a huge amount, so you will be limited in how long and far you can swim.
Adults and older children tend to learn swimming faster than young children. Young children don’t have very long of an attention span and may struggle to stay focused. They are also not as physically developed but they can make up for this with their boundless energy.
Older learners are more likely to ask questions and communicate their concerns with the instructor. Young children may not be able to convey what they are trying to say, or may even be too shy to do so.
Furthermore, young children would probably get overwhelmed with both physical and mental fatigue if they were forced to take swimming lessons everyday for a week straight. An older individual would probably want to get it done as quickly as possible so that they do not disrupt their busy lives for longer than they need to, so they can cope with it.
The advantage of a young child taking swim lessons so early is that they are less likely to be afraid of the water. They are still curious about the world and don’t realize how dangerous the water can be, which is why older learners tend to be deathly afraid of the water.
Unless a child is at the infant stage of development, chances are it is not as much of an impediment to learning how to swim as you’d think. There is an advantage to blissful ignorance and youthful vigor, and some adults should try to replicate that.
Private or group lessons
Most swimming lessons are taught in a group setting, but you can also hire a private swim instructor who can give you her undivided attention.
Group swimming lessons are arguably more fun because you get to interact with others and get encouraged by them. They are also cheaper and a great way for kids to learn how to socialize. The downside is that the swim instructor’s attention is divided, and each student may only receive a few minutes of attention over a 30-45 minute session.
Conversely, a private swim instructor can give you their undivided attention for the entirety of the swim lesson. You will receive personalized feedback and can have your problems solved much faster. However, you will not experience the camaraderie of learning to swim with others and it can feel lonely, not to mention significantly more expensive.
That said, with such an ambitious goal like learning how to swim in a week, then a private instructor is your best bet to getting this done.
How do you define swimming?
Everyone has a different standard for what it means to know how to swim. Depending on your standards, it may even be impossible to learn how to swim in a week.
The loosest definition of swimming I ever heard was if you can do the doggie paddle, then you can swim. Going by the dictionary definition of swimming, that’s technically not wrong.
However, others define it in more practical terms. They want to be able to use it in ways that can actually benefit them in a real world situation so that it can potentially save their life.
For that, we have come up with a practical checklist. I think it’s safe to say you know how to swim if you:
- Can tread water continuously for at least two minutes.
- Can turn 360° in place in the water.
- Can swim a hundred yards (2 laps) without stopping.
- Can float on your back for at least two minutes.
- Can comfortably submerge your face and swim underwater.
- Can do the survival strokes.
- Can exit a pool without stairs or a ladder.
- Can do all of the above without goggles.
- Are confident in your abilities.
The pertinent question is: can you accomplish all of the above within a single week? I think you can, but you need to put in immense effort and not be hindered by the factors that affect learning how to swim mentioned above.
At the end of the day, learning how to swim in a week is a monumental, but arbitrary goal. It’s not reasonable to expect to be able to accomplish this. Heck, if you can even learn how to swim in 2-3 weeks, that’d be an incredible pace.
Even if you don’t learn how to swim in a week, you can make tremendous progress that will pave the way for learning the rest of the skills in a timely manner.